on making THE GRINCH
Her character Martha May Whovier (rhyming with Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy's middle name) was created by the screenwriters, Christine Baranski notes: "She wasn't in the original story. When I first met with Ron Howard, she was going to be kind of the 'Martha Stewart' of Whoville, but then she evolved into being the diva and femme fatale, and had kind of the Veronica Lake look at the end.
"It just got more and more fun," Baranski continues. "I thought it was going to be one thing at the beginning, which I was more than happy to play, but then as we got into design and I saw my costume, and what they were doing with my character, with the hair and makeup, and drop-dead gorgeous clothes, and her longing for the Grinch, it just got better and better.
"Usually, it gets worse and worse as they downsize your character; mine just kept getting better," she laughs.
Baranski notes the Grinch and her character "had a crush on each other in grammar school. When he comes back into her life, she's very excited. She's such a perfectionist, and holds the world at a distance. She kind of escapes into her perfectionism, and sublimates all her sensuality and sexuality into her aesthetic life.
"And he kind of liberates her from that at the end. They're in the cave, wanting to redecorate it. But I feel that she is sexually liberated by the Grinch, that he lifts her up out of her cage, while she liberates him, and endows him with attractiveness because she loves him. So it is a little Beauty and the Beast story. That's how I conceived it anyway. I found the character very moving."
Martha Stewart was an inspiration to the set designer and costume designer. "I actually pitched the idea of having the trim on my character's negligee match the trim on her boudoir chairs, and they went with that idea," Baranski says. "I literally had a blue satin negligee with white maribou trim, and they designed a whole bedroom that matched. And you know Martha Stewart: everything has to match. In my living room (which was just astonishingly beautiful), my hostess gown matched the Christmas ornaments going onto the tree.
"So as I'm sitting there, in this green hostess outfit, I'm trimming a green satin ball, and there's all this green plaid leitmotif all through the living room that kind of matches my outfit. It's kind of a little joke on Martha Stewart."
Baranski says she has found making this movie a satisfying experience. "When this was over, I said if I never do another movie, I will have had the great privilege of working on one of the big Hollywood movies that could only be done in Hollywood, with top, top people in every department creating a world that can only be described as totally cinematic.
"I think this movie is going to be just tremendous. It could be like another WIZARD OF OZ, so completely of its own world. It was extraordinary. Ron Howard is as good a person as you could want to work with on film.
"As big a production as this was, he never lost his cool. He's just the most easygoing, lovely man, but he's got this enormous intelligence, and a wonderful humanity, so no matter how big this movie gets technically, I think it will always have heart."
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[originally published in Cinefantastique magazine]
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